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Motorola Droid Razr, from Verizon, review [Video]

November 12, 2011 |  1:02 pm

Motorola Droid Razr

Motorola's Droid Razr mightily impresses on paper and in the hand. 

The new Razr, which brings back last decade's famous flip-phone nameplate, is super thin and light, and that really is its big selling point.

At just 0.28-inches thick and weighing in at 127 grams, the Razr packs in a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage and a microSD card slot with a 16-gigabyte card included. Inside there are the usual smartphone components: proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, electronic compass and accelerometer.

Those are top-end specs sandwiched into the thinnest form factor of any 4G phone on the market. Off the bat, the Razr feels like something special — like an achievement of smartphone engineering.

On the software side, the Smart Actions feature stands out, allowing users to easily program their phone to automatically launch applications or change settings after specified inputs. For example, I set the Droid Razr to launch the Pandora music app every time I plugged a set of headphones in. It worked seamlessly and it's a feature I wouldn't mind seeing on more phones. 

The Razr, which is exclusive to Verizon Wireless, runs Google's Android Gingerbread operating system, with Motorola's user interface changes. An upgrade to Android Ice Cream Sandwich is promised for early 2012.

Motorola's trademark camera bump shows up at the top of the Razr — a design cue I actually like. It houses the Razr's 8-megapixel rear camera — which can shoot 1080p video — plus an LED flash, mini-HDMI port, mini-USB port and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.

The front of the Razr is covered in the extremely durable Corgina Gorilla Glass. I took a pen and later a fork and kitchen knife to the display and not a single scratch showed up, bringing a smile to my face.

The back of the phone is largely Kevlar, the strong, flexible material used in bullet-proof vests and NASCAR body panels — but, no, the Razr is not bullet-proof. As on Apple's iPhone but not many Androids, the battery on the Razr is not removable by the user; instead it's sealed under the Kevlar back. That helps make for a thin phone and is a trade-off I'm personally fine with.

The combination of Gorilla Glass on the front and Kevlar on the back add up to a phone that feels solidly built, with no visible gaps or cheap-feeling plastic surfaces anywhere to be found, save for a flip-out door on the left side of the Razr that hides the microSD card slot and the 4G LTE sim card. And yes, as always, Verizon's 4G LTE network is blazing fast for streaming video, loading Web pages and general Web data consumption.

But that small door feels like it will eventually break off and is a weak point of the otherwise luxurious design. Battery life isn't great, but I've yet to test a 4G smartphone from any manufacturer that delivers great battery life.

With heavy use, I would have to charge the Razr before a work day is done. Daily charging would be a part of life with the Razr and anyone considering buying this phone should have a charger at home, work and in the car.

However, the door and battery life are minor complaints compared to the Razr's 4.3-inch touch display. Beneath the wonderful Gorilla Glass is what Motorola calls its Super AMOLED Advanced qHD screen, with a 540 x 960 pixel resolution. Frankly put, the screen is a major disappointment. 

Colors look oversaturated, text on Web pages often appears jagged and rough, and overall the display looks pixelated, adding up to a screen that is more distracting than immersive. 

The Droid Bionic, while thicker and nearly as attractive style-wise, has a better-looking screen (and now sells for $250 on a two-year contract from Verizon after first launching at a price of $300). Even better looking is the Samsung Galaxy S II's display. Top of the smartphone heap, in my opinion, is the display on Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S.

Compared with these three top handsets, the Razr's screen looks dated and not worth the $300 asking price.

Every time you use a smartphone, you're looking at its screen. If you don't like what you're looking at, well, that's a deal breaker. It's about equal to hating the seats, steering wheel and dashboard of the car you drive each day. 

If the Razr's screen would have just matched the look of the Droid Bionic, the Razr could be challenging the Samsung Galaxy S II as my favorite Android on the market. Instead, the Razr leaves me wondering what could have been and hoping for an improved Razr 2 some day.


First look: Sony's 3-D TV worn on your head [Video]

Samsung Galaxy S II, Android on Sprint review [Video]

Motorola Droid Bionic review: Top-notch phone isn't for everybody [Video]

— Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: The Motorola Droid Razr. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times